You see, the only real safeguard we have against this new wave of creeping, technology-driven totalitarianism is to expose the abuses, and create tidal waves of public outrage. The surveillance community instinctively understands how powerful and deeply ingrained our distrust of government “security” runs, even in red states. Justice Scalia, certainly no liberal, penned the 2012 Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Jones, which found the warrantless use of GPS auto tracking devices violated the Fourth Amendment.
In spite of this Supreme Court ruling, the Department of Homeland Security went right ahead with a national license-plate tracking proposal that was even more sweeping in scope. It was only after the public uproar following media reports about the plan that DHS was forced to beat a hasty and undignified retreat. They didn’t even feign a pretense of national security; they just said, in effect, “Oops – our bad.”
So it is clear that only “We the People” have the power to rein in overzealous intrusions upon our constitutionally guaranteed rights. Every time we pull back the curtain on the government voyeurs, they are forced to back down—and quickly.
This American revulsion against the government’s heavy hand is not a new fad created by Edward Snowden’s stolen NSA documents. Way back in 1990, while I was managing a gubernatorial race in Kentucky, fear of violent crime was the leading campaign issue. Our worst nightmare was to be painted as “soft on crime,” so in our research, we asked groups of voters if they would support installing video recorders in state police cars. We thought this would be a very popular way to get tough on drunk drivers.
On the night of May 14, 1988 a drunken sot drove his pickup truck down the wrong side of Kentucky’s Interstate 71 and crashed head-on into a school bus carrying 63 children home from a church outing. The bus burst into flames and 24 children burned to death. Three adult chaperones were also killed, and the 12 kids who lived suffered terrible burns. To this day that tragic crash remains the most horrible drunk driving tragedy in our nation’s history. The public was outraged, and we believed we had a winning issue.
And so we did—just not in the way we’d thought. Every focus group—men, women, black, white, Appalachian coal miners and Louisville bankers—all said the same thing:
“Yeah, then the cops can’t beat people up!”
This was before Rodney King, mind you. We were shocked at the time, but I’ve never forgotten the lesson.
Most Americans live in the real world. Most Americans know that any interaction with cops is to be avoided as much as possible, because such interactions can potentially be extremely dangerous – not to the cops, but to them. Most Americans understand that to attempt to assert constitutional rights to a policeman is tantamount to asking for a beating, a night in jail, or worse.
Cops, in their storm-trooper armor, their black mirror-shades, their trained authoritarian manner, always pretend they are shocked, shocked to discover that the public doesn’t much like them and, in fact, fears them.
In truth, however, they are pleased. Because they regard fear as just an extension of their own armor. If you are afraid of cops, you won’t threaten their authority because your own fear will counsel you against it.
They love the “sage advice” of those who tell you never to confront a cop, but wait until your day in court. They know they generally win their days in court, one way or another.
So you have to fight their technology with your own. Make sure the camera and video recorder on your cell phone is automatically transferring whatever you take to the Cloud as you do it, so they can’t simply crush your gadget and make the evidence disappear. All my phones are set up to do that. And if a cop tells you it’s against the law to film him, tell him that it is not, and that your recording is already in the Cloud where he can’t reach it.
They hate being opposed with actual evidence. So make sure you are able to do exactly that.
The cops are not your friends. Some may be decent people off duty, but once the armor and the opaque sunglasses – and the clubs and the stunners and the guns – go on, they are The Law, which they interpret as being judge, jury, and, if necessary, executioner.
Never forget it.